Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-202127-4
Historical Romance, 2011
Linnet Berry Thrynne is impossibly beautifully but totally ruined. A misguided flirtation with the Duke of Sussex, who also happens to be a prince, is bad enough as people know that he will never marry her, but an unfortunately unflattering dress and a wrongly-timed bout of nausea have everyone thinking that, er, more has taken root in this affair. The prince in question, Augustus, scurries off into the sunset while Linnet finds herself trying to convince her father and her aunt that she is not pregnant.
Never mind, they decide to marry her off to Piers Yelverton, the Earl of Marchant. This is because the Earl has a terrible reputation as a Beast, he has his father convinced that he is impotent, and it does seem like he will never get married. His father, the Duke of Windebank, is a man who is particular about the bloodlines of the family, and he is actually pleased that Linnet is carrying a child related to a royal bloodline, given the circumstances of his son’s anatomical malfunction. The trouble is, nobody informs Piers that he is about to get married…
You may understandably believe that When Beauty Tamed the Beast is yet another take on that fairy tale, but it seems to me that Eloisa James actually based the hero on a certain Dr Gregory House instead of Ugga the Wonder Beast. Piers, a doctor, is trying very hard to be Dr House here, being as blunt, unpleasant, and even vulgar as can be even to his patients who are dying, and naturally, Piers is always right while his cousin, Sebastien, is the blond foil to his wild cannon ways.
The problem here is that Dr House has some pretty good excuses for his behavior. He’s mentally unstable and he’s addicted to drugs. The fact that he looks like Hugh Laurie also helps. Piers, on the other hand, is just a big baby who is unable to get over the fact that his father was once an opium addict whose addiction tore his family apart. The Duke tries to make amends for his mistakes, and while I do admit that it is pretty hard to just forgive that man in a blink, Piers’s actions however paint him as a petty little boy trapped in a man’s body. He says nasty things to Linnet to drive her away, and he only changes his mind about loving her when he comes this close to losing her permanently. Because Piers isn’t insane or on drugs and he doesn’t look like Hugh Laurie, his petty break-the-toys antics get old really, really fast.
Linnet is actually a well-drawn heroine – she’s beautiful, self-aware, and has a good sense of humor. She also can stand up well to Piers, recognizing him as a bully early on, and she has some vulnerabilities that feel raw and real. But she’s paired with a petty and bad-tempered man-child who doesn’t act his age and who keeps trying to hurt her feelings. I can’t understand why she would want to spend the rest of her life with this fellow – she’d be more of his mother than his wife and lover.
When Beauty Tamed the Beast would have been a decent read if this had been a short story. Certainly, the first quarter of the story is an entertaining read, full of charming banters and witty observations about life and love. Once Linnet shacks up in Piers’s castle in Wales with his father and a passel of other secondary characters, however, Piers’s repetitive and boring antics dominate the story. The lack of interesting conflict to keep the momentum going soon bogs down this story, making it about 200 pages too long.